New Cool vs. Old School


by Mike Ramey

A New Visions Commentary paper published September 1998 by The National Center
for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Court, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002,
202/543-4110, Fax (202) 543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web
http://www.nationalcenter.org. Reprints permitted provided source
is credited.


We have heard a lot of talk about the youth of today. We have heard how "unreliable" or "unrespectful" they can be toward adult authority.

Yet, how many of us "old folks" have actually taken the time to sit down with our youth to find out what makes them tick? How many of us find out about their dreams, hopes and ambitions?

It's easy to ship our kids off to a social worker, job training center or recreation program for fun and activities, yet we miss out on getting the chance to know them.

Many of us in the African-American community have been guilty of believing the newspapers when it comes to our own teens. We have grown to accept the reports that seeking to interact with youth - even those who live under our own roof - is hard, nay, nearly impossible to accomplish.

Let me tell you a little secret. Our youth like to have us around. In fact, they welcome the chance to "hang" with adults, provided we allow them the freedom to be themselves.

You may be asking yourself: "Where can I meet with the teens of today and find out the truth behind the headlines?"

One suggestion would perhaps be the following: volunteer to serve as a chaperone at a middle school or high school dance.

Recently, I had the chance to chaperone some of my students at a school dance. Instead of them freezing me out of their conversations and friendships, I was warmly recieved. So were other teachers and parents who helped to oversee the dance activities.

While the music and the dancing were for the teen crowd, every once in a while the DJ would play an old song from days gone by. All at once, the kids would yell "OLD SCHOOL!" and had one of the visiting adults teach them some steps that matched the tune.

We had a ball!

While the Funky Penguin has been replaced by The Percolator in terms of movements on the dance floor, skills in the social graces are still needed. How will our young men learn how to treat our young women (and vice versa) if adults don't set aside their day planners and cellphones and get involved with the teaching process?

See my point?

Every generation has had to determine what being "cool" means. However, we now have a generation of teens who are anxious for adult involvement and leadership in pointing them toward the right path of maturity.

This is the "New Cool," so to speak.

Our young people are sharp, ready to be successful and are seeking adults who are not afraid of them, their looks or their language. As adults, we have to put aside our news media notions of our teens and get involved with them as our parents got involved with us.

The political establishment is quick to tell the public where they should be involved. Celebrities clog the airwaves with their involvement for "this cause and that charity."

I have found that the best missionary work begins in one's own backyard. One cannot lose if they start with the young of their homes - and schools.

I recall one wise man saying: "Everyone, it seems, is crying for leaders. Why don't YOU become a leader?"

All it takes is time, brushing up on your dance steps and spending some time with our youth - instead of merely reading about them.

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(Mike Ramey, an associate of Project 21, is a minister and columnist who lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.)


Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.


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